Kourabiedes (kourambiethes) are one of the most delicious Greek cookies, perfect for Christmas time (to me, they look like little snowballs!). Simple butter cookies with plenty of chopped, toasted almonds in the dough are baked with a festive whole clove in the center, then piled with powdered sugar for a deliciously simple, melt-in-your-mouth, classic Greek Christmas cookie.
This is my grandmother, Aggie’s, recipe, and it’s extremely simple. Some other recipes for Kourabiedes have egg, vanilla, baking soda, and other ingredients you find commonly in cookie recipes. Some recipes also include rose water or orange blossom water.
My grandmother’s recipe is more like a shortbread, with only five ingredients – butter, powdered sugar, flour, almonds, and whole cloves. It makes for a delicious texture that’s somewhere in-between melt-in-your-mouth and satisfyingly crumbly, the warm flavor and aroma of the clove imbued throughout.
Kourabiedes are popular Greek Christmas cookies, but also are made for other festive occasions like weddings. My Aunt Viki made them for my bridal shower years ago, and as the family expert in Greek cooking and recipes passed down from my grandmother, I consulted heavily with her on this recipe. (You may have seen her recipe on Bowl of Delicious for Dutch Butter Cake – another Christmas baking favorite of mine!) Sending her my many thanks!
I’m so excited to share this family recipe with you passed down through generations, and I hope you love it as much as I do!
Oh, and do make sure to keep an eye out for that clove when you eat these – you’ll want to remove it from the cookie instead of eating it!
Ingredients in Kourabiedes
- Unsalted Butter – This will be whipped up using a standing mixer, but if you can find already whipped butter such as Breakstone’s at your grocery store, feel free to use that to save time!
- Confectioners sugar
- Toasted Slivered Almonds – walnuts or pecans could also be used.
- Whole cloves – these can be left out, but I do recommend them, as the cookies are so simple and they impart a delicious flavor throughout and make them smell amazing as they cook!
How to make Kourabiedes
Toast the almonds
First, you’ll toast the almonds. Slivered almonds are best here because they toast evenly with more surface area to toast than whole almonds. The easiest way to do this is to spread slivered almonds on a parchment covered baking sheet and bake for about 6 minutes at 350 degrees F. Then remove, flip around with a spatula, and bake for another 2 minutes. Keep checking them in two-minute increments. You want to be very careful they don’t burn, but also make sure that they are toasted throughout at a golden brown color with a deep flavor (as this is the star flavor of the cookie!). Wait for them to completely cool, then chop finely.
Make the dough
Next, you’ll whip the butter. Place softened unsalted butter in your stand mixer (four sticks! Don’t be shy!) and set on a high speed for 15 minutes, stopping every so often to scrape down any butter that gets stuck to the top of the bowl.
Now – 15 minutes may seem like a long time. And if you don’t have that much time, you can whip the butter for at least 5 minutes instead of 15. But it’s the way my grandmother did it, so it’s what I did, and from testing it along the way it had a fluffier, lighter texture the longer it went. You can prep other ingredients while you wait!
Then, you’ll add powdered sugar to the butter, mix for another 5 minutes at a high speed, then add flour 1 cup at a time and mix at a lower speed until just incorporated. To finish the dough, stir in the toasted almonds by hand.
Form and bake the cookies
Now it’s time to form the cookies! I use a medium-sized cookie scoop (2 tablespoons) to measure equal portions. Then, you’ll want to form the cookies into flatter shapes, since they won’t expand or spread when baking. I formed each one with my hands like I would a burger patty, until about three-quarters of an inch thick.
Place them on a parchment-covered baking sheet and press a whole clove right into the center of each cookie. Then, bake until just barely golden along the edges, which will take somewhere between 20-30 minutes depending on their size (mine took 30 minutes).
Coat in powdered sugar
As soon as the cookies come out of the oven and they are still hot, you’ll want to coat them in powdered sugar. This will allow some of the powdered sugar to melt onto the surface, creating an almost icing-like exterior to the cookie.
Sift a bunch of powdered sugar onto another parchment or wax paper covered rimmed baking sheet. Place the warm cookies on top. Then, sift more powdered sugar on top. You’ll have a lot of excess – that’s OK.
Allow the cookies to cool this way, enveloped in the powdered sugar. Then, serve! And don’t forget to be careful of the clove – remove it as you are eating the cookie. And maybe make sure not to inhale or exhale too hard while taking a bite – that powdered sugar can get you!
Tips and Tricks
- If you want to save some time, you can buy pre-whipped butter, such as Breakstone’s. Once it’s warmed up a bit at room temp, just mix it up a bit at high speed to break it up and then proceed with adding the powdered sugar from there. This is a great option if you don’t have a standing mixer and you want to use a hand mixer.
- You may need a little less flour than the recipe asks for. You should be able to form a shape easily with the dough, so if the dough starts to come together well with only four cups of flour instead of four and a half, you can stop there.
- Be sure not to over-mix the dough when you add the flour. You want the dough to just come together. If you over-mix it, the texture of the cookies may be a bit tough due to gluten development in the flour from mixing.
- If you want to serve these or pack them up as Christmas presents, you can place them in a cupcake liner to keep all the powdered sugar from going everywhere.
- Toast the almonds up to a few days in advance, if you want to save time. You can also make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate for a few days until you want to use it.
Is there really no salt at all in these?
Nope! My grandmother’s recipe does not use ANY salt, which surprised me. But even as a salt lover myself, especially in sweet baked goods, I can confidently say you really don’t need it here. The flavor of the toasted almonds and clove carry the cookies. That said, I don’t think salt would hurt the cookies at all. I’d add about a quarter of a teaspoon to the batch, if you want to do add some.
These cookies can last for an absurdly long time at room temperature. At the very least, you should be able to get a good week out of them – likely more! – in an airtight container left at room temperature.
Other Christmas Cookie Recipes
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Kourabiedes (Greek Butter and Almond Cookies)
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- 1 lb. unsalted butter (four sticks, or pre-whipped butter, see notes)
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- whole cloves
- plenty of additional powdered sugar for dusting, about 2 cups
- Toast the almonds. Place the ½ cup slivered almonds on a parchment-covered baking sheet in a single layer and bake at 350 degrees F. for 6 minutes. Toss them around a bit, then put them back in for 2 minutes. Check on them, and cook for 2 minute increments if necessary until they are a light brown/golden color and smell toasty (see notes for tips). Allow to cool completely, then chop the almonds finely and set aside.
- Whip the butter. Add the 1 lb. unsalted butter to a standing mixer and mix on high using the paddle attachment for 15 minutes, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides. (If you don't have 15 minutes, or you are using a hand mixer, do a minimum of 5 minutes).
- Make the dough. Add the ½ cup powdered sugar to the mixer and mix for another 5 minutes at high speed. Add the 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour one cup at a time and mix on low speed until just combined. Stir in the toasted almonds with a spoon until evenly distributed.
- Form the cookies. Use a medium sized cookie scoop (about 2 tablespoons) to scoop portions. Shape those portions into flatter cookies with your hands, similarly to forming a burger patty. They should be about ¾ of an inch thick. Place on a parchment-covered baking sheet. They can be fairly close together as they won't spread out. Stick the whole cloves in the center of each cookie. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, or until just beginning to turn golden around the edges.
- Coat in plenty of additional powdered sugar . When the cookies are still warm right out of the oven, transfer to a parchment-covered baking sheet dusted with lots of sifted powdered sugar. Then, sift more powdered sugar on top and allow the cookies to cool. The sugar will melt slightly on the warm surfaces, creating an almost icing-like coating. Serve the cookies once they have cooled, and be sure to remove the clove as you are eating the cookie.
- For toasting the almonds: Do keep an eye on them, because if they burn or get too dark, their flavor will be too bitter and you’ll have to start over. You can do this days in advance if you like, and you can also toast almonds in a dry skillet (which is faster, but requires more attention as the skillet gets much hotter).
- You may need a little less flour than the recipe requires. The dough should come together easily into a formed shape – if this happens with only 4 cups of flour instead of 4.5, then you can add a little less than the whole amount.
- You can make smaller cookies and end up with 50-60 pieces. The smaller you make them, the longer prep time will take as you have to form each one. They will also require less baking time. Use a smaller cookie scoop to portion them out for uniform sizing.
- Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week.
Nutrition Information Disclaimer
The provided nutrition information is my best estimate and does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. I use an automatic API to calculate this information. Feel free to calculate it yourself using one of these tools: